Ambassador Kelly Knight Craft

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Trump’s ‘influential’ pick for ambassador to Canada faces Senate hearing

Kelly Knight Craft donated $265K to Trump campaign committee in 2016

By Matt Kwong, CBC News Posted: Jul 20, 2017 5:00 AM ETLast Updated: Jul 20, 2017 9:27 AM ET

U.S. President Donald Trump’s pick for the next ambassador to Canada, a deep-pocketed Republican donor with influential allies in Congress and family ties with a Kentucky coal empire, faces her Senate confirmation hearing Thursday.

Kelly Knight Craft will testify before the Senate committee on foreign relations in a joint session with Trump’s nominees for ambassador to NATO and the U.K.

Craft and her husband, billionaire coal-mining magnate Joe Craft, donated about $265,000 to a committee backing Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. She announced her support for Trump after getting assurances that he wouldn’t bump House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell from their roles.

Maryscott Greenwood, who is the senior adviser to the Canadian American Business Council and knows Craft personally through mutual friends, calls her nomination a “terrific” choice.

kelly knight craft UN

Craft addresses the United Nations about U.S. engagement in Africa in 2007. President George W. Bush chose her as an alternate delegate to the UN. (Courtesy of Glasgow Daily Times)

Craft “brings a Southern charm that Gordon Giffin and David Wilkins also had,” she said, referring to two previous ambassadors to Canada.

“She’s quite impressive. Canadians will see that when they get a first chance to hear her in her own words.”

With more than $700 billion in two-way trade of goods and services between Canada and the U.S., along with issues regarding cross-border security and energy, “the deeper our ambassador’s connections with policy-makers, the better able she is to navigate this huge, complicated relationship,” Greenwood said.

Those connections with the White House and key members of Congress could prove very beneficial to Canada, experts say, particularly as Ottawa braces for U.S. tax reform and “Buy American” rules for a $1-trillion infrastructure plan that could lock out Canadian firms.

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David Wilkins was a close family friend of George W. Bush when he was appointed ambassador to Canada. (Blair Gable/Reuters)

“The importance of the ambassador, really, is how close to the administration is she or he?” said Derek Burney, Canadian ambassador to the U.S. from 1989 to 1993.

“She must have the confidence of the president to get this appointment. And if she has the ear of the president, that’s good for us.”

Her appointment would come at a crucial time. On Monday, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative released a blueprint of objectives for renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Formal talks are scheduled to begin Aug. 16.

It’s in the interests of Canada and the U.S. to have that “point person” on site as soon as possible, said former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson.

“The ambassador acts as the quarterback in the field. With the release of the U.S. objectives for NAFTA, it’s very important that the Americans have an ambassador in Ottawa that can feed back into the United States the reaction of the Canadians.”

Joe Craft

Craft, right, with her husband, Joe Craft, a billionaire coal-mining magnate who has criticized former president Barack Obama’s climate policies. (Courtesy of Glasgow Daily Times)

One potential area of tension for Craft in Canada’s capital could be her strong links to the coal sector, said Elliot Tepper, a distinguished senior fellow with Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs in Ottawa.

“What’s clear is that her interests in regard to the coal industry are in sync with the American administration, but out of sync with the Canadian government at the moment,” Tepper said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government announced plans last November to phase out coal-fired electricity by 2030. Meanwhile, Trump has pledged to revive coal jobs in the U.S.

Craft’s husband is the CEO of Alliance Resource Partners LP, one of the largest coal producers in the eastern U.S. He has questioned the science and dangers of climate change, diverging from Canada’s position.

But Tepper said such factors are mitigated by the fact Canada has already gone through a six-month period of adjustment with its primary strategic and diplomatic trading partner.

‘Quick and without controversy’

Potential political differences with Canada aside, when lawmakers question Craft at Thursday morning’s joint session, her testimony should go smoothly, aided by a Republican majority on the committee.

Hearings for the Canadian ambassador post are typically “quick and without controversy,” following some warm remarks and introductions, said Robertson, who attended the hearings for former U.S. ambassador to Canada David Wilkins.

“I suspect all the ducks are lined up and her hearing will go quickly, and that she’ll be confirmed early next week,” the former diplomat said.

Craft previously ran a marketing consulting firm. In 2007, she was appointed as an alternate to the United Nations by President George W. Bush, advising on U.S. engagement in Africa.

U.S. ambassadorships to Canada are considered plum postings, typically not awarded to career diplomats but to key fundraisers who have the confidence of the president and may be well connected in Washington.

Wilkins, a South Carolina lawyer, was a top Republican donor and close family friend of George W. Bush. The most recent ambassador, Bruce Heyman, helped raise more than $1 million for Barack Obama’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee in 2011 and 2012.

Bruce Heyman

Bruce Heyman, a Barack Obama appointee, resigned as ambassador to Canada back in January because Trump wanted to name his own ambassadors. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Heyman resigned on Jan. 20, heeding Trump’s State Department instructions for ambassadors to clear house by inauguration day so he could name his own envoys.

While Craft has been active in philanthropy and also served on the University of Kentucky’s board of trustees, Tepper said little is known about her diplomatic or political skills.

“We know that she’s influential. What we do not know is if she has the requisite communication and diplomatic skills,” he said. “That will be tested during the confirmation hearings.”

Global Trump at Six Months

Six Months of Trump:  What are the lessons learned as Canada heads into NAFTA negotiations

 

July 19, 2017

CALGARY- The University of Calgary School of Public Policy and the Canadian Global Affairs Institute today release a report that examines the first six months of the Trump administration’s foreign policy. The paper looks at the Trump approach, asks is there an emerging Trump doctrine, and offers some perspectives on the Trump Administration’s global policies after six months. According to author Colin Robertson, a Fellow of the School of Public Policy and the Canadian Global Affairs Institute:

Canada will have to actively engage with Congress, the states and the private and public interests that drive the American agenda. We will also have to put more effort and contribute more to the rules-based order of which we have been a beneficiary.  Traditional statecraft is based on predictability and stability, both hallmarks of U.S. post-war foreign policy practised by both Democrats and Republicans. Predictable, Mr. Trump is not. The deliberation and careful planning that characterized the Obama administration have been replaced by Mr. Trump’s reliance on gut and instinct. Such unpredictability will continue to create heartburn inside foreign chancelleries, whether friend or foe.”

 

Where once the USA was prepared to cover the spread on trade and security, under Donald Trump there will be more take than give. Now, Canada and the allies will have to make their own investments in hard power to preserve collective security. But less dependence and reliance on US leadership and more collective responsibility would be a good thing.

 

Middle powers, like Canada, will have to step up their diplomacy, both collective and individual. Focusing on their own niche capacities they will have to shore up the space left by Trump Administration decisions on climate, migration and at the international institutions that sustain the rules-based order. Ironically, one effect of the Trump presidency may be to make the western alliance stronger.

 

The text follows. The report can also be found online at www.policyschool.ca/publications/

America First:

The Global Trump at Six Months

 

Summary:

 

For Donald Trump ‘America First’ means ‘America First.’ Canada and like-minded nations will have to get used to it.

 

Canada will have to actively engage with Congress, the states and the private and public interests that drive the American agenda. We will also have to put more effort and contribute more to the rules-based order of which we have been a beneficiary.

 

Traditional statecraft is based on predictability and stability, both hallmarks of U.S. post-war foreign policy practised by both Democrats and Republicans. Predictable, Mr. Trump is not. The deliberation and careful planning that characterized the Obama administration have been replaced by Mr. Trump’s reliance on gut and instinct. Such unpredictability will continue to create heartburn inside foreign chancelleries, whether friend or foe.

 

Where once the USA was prepared to cover the spread on trade and security, under Donald Trump there will be more take than give. Now, Canada and the allies will have to make their own investments in hard power to preserve collective security. But less dependence and reliance on US leadership and more collective responsibility would be a good thing.

 

Middle powers, like Canada, will have to step up their diplomacy, both collective and individual. Focusing on their own niche capacities they will have to shore up the space left by Trump Administration decisions on climate, migration and at the international institutions that sustain the rules-based order. Ironically, one effect of the Trump presidency may be to make the western alliance stronger.

 

 

President Donald Trump: A ‘Spectacle of Excess’

 

In action and words, President Donald Trump, like Candidate Donald Trump, continues to demonstrate a “spectacle of excess.”

 

Blunt and abrasive, bombastic and brash, Donald Trump is an insurgent. He campaigned as the champion of America’s “forgotten men and women” and his “America First” policy draws unabashedly on nativism, populism and protectionism.

 

Since taking office, President Trump has acted on many of his specific pledges, drawing frequently on his executive powers.

 

Executive orders suspended immigration from seven Muslim countries (although were promptly overturned by judges). Executive orders approved construction of both the Dakota Access pipeline and the Keystone XL pipeline. Executive orders rolled back president Obama’s Clean Power Plan, replacing it with President Trump’s Energy Independence Policy.

 

Another set of orders withdrew the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), ordered the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and opened a 90-day investigation in America’s trade deficits with 16 countries (including Canada).

 

Trump’s first budget proposals increased spending for defence and homeland security, while cutting funding for the environment, diplomacy and most other agencies.

 

Neither the discipline of power, nor convention, nor political correctness matters to Donald Trump.

 

The Trump cabinet is whiter, wealthier, older and more male than those of George W. Bush or Barack Obama. It has an unusually high representation of “billionaires and generals.”

 

The presidency has done nothing to temper Donald Trump’s bombast or brash behaviour. The mainstream media and its “fake news” gets the back of his hand. While Mr. Trump’s supporters may give him a pass in the short-term eventually the lies and theatrics will wear thin.  As Elaine Kamarck, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, observes:
“President Trump has consistently behaved in ways that undermine his own self-interest. Take the Russia issue. It is entirely possible that he is completely innocent. But almost everything he has said or done since the election undermines that possibility, and reminds one of that old saying: where there’s smoke there’s fire. Moreover, he has consistently said things that are not true — like that Obama had him wiretapped or that his Electoral College victory was the biggest since Ronald Reagan. Following these tweets or statements, he inexplicably has stood by them in the face of no evidence. He repeatedly seems to go out of his way to make enemies, not friends, by attacking the press and reporters personally. There have also been times when his words in front of a group have been completely inappropriate.”

 

Donald Trump’s diplomatic approach is unlike any other US president, confounding America’s traditional friends and allies.

 

Autocrats appear to get a pass if not an embrace. After Turkey’s referendum, Mr. Trump congratulated President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the only western leader to do so. He lavished praise on General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, Egypt’s military leader. He backed Marine LePen and the far right in the French elections. His first official visit took him to Saudi Arabia where he lauded its theocratic rulers and those of the Gulf nations. He treated Chinese President Xi Jing-ping at Mar-a-Lago and gave Russian President Vladimir Putin more time than any other leader at the G-20.

 

Allies have not had the same treatment. When the conversation turned sour, he reportedly “hung up” on Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto canceled a Washington visit after Mr. Trump tweeted that “If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting.” He refused to shake hands with Angela Merkel, the democratically elected leader of Germany whom The Economist magazine once described as the “Indispensable European”. He tweeted abuse at the mayor of London after that city’s terrorist attacks. Arriving at the NATO summit in Brussels he lambasted the allies for not paying their dues.

 

The Trump approach comes with a cost. After the G7 and NATO meetings, Conservative pundit David Frum tweeted: “Since 1945, the supreme strategic goal in Europe of the USSR and then Russia was the severing of the U.S.-German alliance. Trump delivered.”

 

Then there are the lies.

 

After a hundred days in office the Washington Post catalogued 492 false or misleading claims, following on the 59 Four-Pinocchio ratings Donald Trump earned as a presidential candidate. The New York Times is still keeping a list believing that “as regular as they have become, the country should not allow itself to become numb to them.” By design or accident, his tweets, whoppers and pronouncements keep him at the forefront of the media cycle.

 

To the consternation of his critics, it delights his supporters whose support remains strong. But at some point, the public is likely to become fatigued and long for a return to stable government.

A Trump Doctrine?

Promising to “make America great again,” Donald Trump told GOP delegates at his Cleveland nomination convention that “Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo” because only then will Americans “get the respect that we deserve.” He promised to rebuild America’s defence establishment saying: “we don’t want to have a depleted military because we’re all over the place fighting in areas that we shouldn’t be fighting in. It’s not going to be depleted any longer.”

 

Throughout the campaign and then in his “thank-you” stops after his election, Mr. Trump was emphatic about keeping American forces out of foreign wars, saying that “we will stop racing to topple foreign regimes that we know nothing about, that we shouldn’t be involved with.” Instead he said, “our focus must be on defeating terrorism and destroying ISIS, and we will.”

 

Now, President Trump faces hard decisions around increasing the military commitment in Afghanistan and continuing to sustain the effort in Iraq and Syria.

Since his Inaugural Address, his speech to the people of Poland has provided the most insight into President Trump’s global perspective. In asking a series of questions in Warsaw’s Krasinski Square (July 6, 2017), he  returned to the dark “carnage in America” theme of his Inaugural Address :

“The fundamental question of our time is whether the west has the will to survive. Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilisation in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?”

In their Wall Street Journal column ‘America First Doesn’t Mean America Alone’ (May 30, 2017), National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster and National Economic Council director Gary Cohn write that while the US is “asking a lot of our allies and partners… in return America will once again be a true friend to our partners and the worst foe to our enemies.”

Defence Secretary Jim Mattis spoke (June 2, 2017) in a similar vein when he said at the Shangri-la Security Dialogue in Singapore: “we have a deep and abiding commitment to reinforcing the rules-based international order”.

In speaking to State Department employees, Secretary Rex Tillerson observed that the ‘America First’ policy “doesn’t mean it comes at the expense of others. Our partnerships and our alliances are critical to our success … but we’ve got to bring them back into balance.”

Unlike the often lengthy deliberation practised by the Obama Administration, the Trump Administration is not reluctant to act quickly.

 

The intervention in Syria was the Administration’s first major military initiative. President Trump said he found the pictures of gassed children choking to death “reprehensible” and insisted they “cannot be ignored by the civilized world.”

 

Secretary Tillerson and General MacMaster argued that the Trump administration would be “willing to act when governments and actors cross the line” and that the “strike itself was proportional because it was targeted at the facility that delivered this most recent chemical weapons attack”.

 

General McMaster observed that they had “weighed the risk associated with any military action, but we weighed that against the risk of inaction … which is the risk of (these) continued, egregious, inhumane attacks on innocent civilians with chemical weapons.”

 

The Obama administration was accused of dithering and over-deliberating before taking action. This is not likely to apply to the Trump administration. Rather it would do well to heed Talleyrand’s advice to leaders: ‘Surtout, pas trop de zele’ (Above all, not too much zeal).

 

Bloomberg’s Margaret Telev observed that the Trump approach at the G7 and NATO summit “was calibrated by the White House to show … to a domestic audience, as well as to Europe, that President Trump is not going to abandon every position that he held from the campaign just because he is here in these meetings, but, at the same time, there was a recognition from his aides that the more he engages with key allies all over the world, the more nuance is brought to the table in terms of him understanding the leadership role that the U.S. is expected to fulfill and the complexities of those obligations.”

 

Looking at the Trump administration after five months, Elliott Abrams, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations — whose appointment as deputy secretary at the State Department was nixed by Trump senior adviser Steve Bannon — observed: “this is not a revolutionary administration. The broad lines of its policy fit easily within those of the last few decades. Trump might not be a conventional president, but so far, his foreign policy has been remarkably unremarkable.” Perhaps.

 

Concluding Observations

 

President Donald Trump is unconventional and unpredictable. On the road, his blend of bravado, bullying, and bluster fits easily into the stereotypical characterization of the “ugly American.”

 

But as Prime Minister Trudeau, who has managed his relationship as well as any foreign leaders, observes: “I have always found that whenever he has made an engagement to me or a commitment to me on the phone or in person, he followed through on that, and that is someone you can work with,”

 

To understand Donald Trump, one needs to read his 1987 book Trump: The Art of the Deal, which chronicles his various business deals in his successful effort to build a real estate empire. It underlines his preference for bilateral negotiations (third parties, he writes, are unnecessary complications, which result in leaving money on the table). Think big and, as Mr. Trump writes, “The worst thing you can possibly do in a deal is seem desperate to make it. That makes the other guy smell blood, and then you’re dead.”  Those negotiating with the Trump Administration, including Canadian and Mexicans who will soon begin re-negotiatio of the NAFTA,  should keep this in mind.

 

There is a tendency among new administrations, especially with a change in party, to vilify and repudiate the policies of their predecessors. This danger is magnified in the Trump administration. Assuming malfeasance and error, on the part of their predecessor, leads to over-correction. The repudiation of the Paris Climate Accord is a case of throwing out the baby with the bath water.

 

Nuance is not President Trump’s thing. In language, tone and application, Donald Trump’s international policy pronouncements on big issues like climate, migration, trade and on the utility of multilateralism are an abrupt departure from post-war American policy. But it is not by its rhetoric that the Trump administration should be judged, but rather its actions.

 

Here the record is less dogmatic and there is more evidence of continuity than of change in foreign policy: the intervention in Syria to preserve international norms on chemical warfare; confrontations with Russia over its lack of accountability; pragmatism towards China; and the re-embracing of the value of NATO and of collective defence, a 180-degree shift from Mr. Trump’s campaign rhetoric, albeit with an emphasis on allies pulling their weight in terms of sharing the burden.

 

There is more reliance on muscle, almost theatrically so.

 

There was the highly publicized dropping in April 2017 of the “mother of all bombs” in Afghanistan, and the May 2017 launching of missiles against Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian air base as “after-dinner entertainment” while Mr. Trump was hosting Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago. President Trump has told North Korea it has “gotta behave.” Vice President Mike Pence and cabinet secretaries James Mattis and Rex Tillerson have all echoed the warning to North Korea that “all options are on the table,” pointing to the “strength and resolve of our new president in actions taken in Syria and Afghanistan.”

 

All new administrations have their pratfalls, but during the first six months of the Trump administration, rarely a day goes by without some controversy and they are not helped by Mr. Trump’s tweets.

 

If Mr. Trump’s administration is unpredictable, it is not entirely capricious.

 

On the details of an issue, even hot-button items like waterboarding, for example, or providing explanations on a crisis like the Syrian intervention, President Trump says he will defer to his cabinet officers (although, he will also sometimes go his own way, as he demonstrated with his refusal to explicitly underline U.S. support for NATO’s Article 5 at the Brussels summit). He is much more a CEO than a micro-manager.

 

As the Trump administration approaches six months in office there has been consistency with campaign promises around the decisions to withdraw from the TPP, to freeze the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations, to renegotiate NAFTA, and to pull out of the Paris climate accord.

 

There is clearer definition on its policies: trade – protectionist; energy – drill and burn fossil fuels; climate – repudiation; defence – more money; and the rest of government – less money. To secure U.S. energy independence, the energy team is carrying through on the campaign promise of “drill, baby, drill” and repeal of Obama era environmental regulation.

 

There have been shifts: on NATO (now for it) and China (now more friend than enemy since the Xi-Trump Mar-a-Lago summit) while the warm words during the campaign for Vladimir Putin have been tempered by events. Where once the US led across the board, there are now deep divisions with its closest allies on climate, on trade, on migration, on the utility of multilateralism.

 

There is still much to be determined: an approach to Africa or Latin America and the rest of Asia (beyond China and North Korea); involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria; an Iran policy; and functional policies, for example, on cybersecurity and human rights.

 

The trade team, led by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and White House Trade Director Peter Navarro, is mercantilist and anti-China. They want to do more enforcement on the trade scofflaws and, at the same time, re-negotiate the various trade pacts, beginning with NAFTA. Their challenge will be their capacity to cope with all the hares they have set running, including acting on the executive orders on trade deficits, steel and aluminum and Hire American and Buy American.

 

Too much decision-making appears to be done on the run. The White House media briefings are chaotic and vitriolic. There is no appearance of order and deliberation.

 

All new administrations endure initial jostling for position by the main players for place and standing. In this Administration, the appearance is that the elbows are sharper and the divisions increasingly personal. Until the full team is in place, figuring out who is up and who is down, and where and how decisions are made is difficult.

 

While the cabinet is in place, most of the supporting cast of deputies, assistants and deputy assistant secretaries are still to be named let alone confirmed. As of July 4, according to the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service, nominees for just 46 out of 561 key jobs in the Trump administration had been confirmed by the Senate, and there are still no nominees for 384 positions.

 

The liberal-based international order has always relied on its guardian, the United States to be the adult in the room. U.S. allies are beginning to say publicly what they say to themselves in private: that a Trump-led America is not a reliable ally.

 

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland recently observed in outlining the contours of her government’s foreign policy that while the U.S. has “truly been the indispensable nation,” it may be tiring of “global leadership.” Canada and like-minded, middle-power nations will have to step up in defence of the rules-based liberal international system.

 

Keeping balance and preserving stability during Trump times will be a test for diplomacy and diplomatic services the world over.

G20 Summit in Hamburg

CBC Commentary on G20 http://www.cbc.ca/player/play/987012163968

A Canadian Primer to the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, July 7-8, 2017

G20_hamburg_Montages.jpg

Image credit: Germany G20 Website

by Colin Robertson
CGAI Vice President and Fellow
July, 2017

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Table of Contents


Introduction

This Thursday and Friday, the leaders of the major economic nations, their finance ministers and central bankers meet in Germany’s northern port city of Hamburg,

birthplace of their host, Chancellor Angela Merkel. It’s their 12th summit to discuss global economic and financial issues.

The summit cannot ignore geopolitics. Conflict continues in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Central Africa. Renewed famine ravages the Horn of Africa. Russia still occupies parts of Ukraine. China is using its muscle to push its claims to the South China Sea. North Korea’s Kim Jong-un improves his nuclear weaponry. Refugees from Africa and the Middle East continue to stream into Europe.

Yet, on the economic front the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) World Economic Outlook (April 2017) projects a pick-up in global economic activity with a long-anticipated cyclical recovery in investment, manufacturing and trade. But in Europe, there are uncertainties posed by Brexit and continuing joblessness, especially youth unemployment in southern Europe. Protectionism continues to threaten, most vocally from President Donald Trump, who has also withdrawn the U.S. from the global climate accord.

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Who and What is the G20?

The G20, originally a meeting of finance ministers, their deputies and central bankers, was formed in 1999 in the wake of the Asian and Russian financial crisis with Canada’s then-Finance minister Paul Martin playing a lead role. It was raised to the leaders’ level in the wake of the 2007-2008 financial crisis when then-U.S. president George W. Bush convened a summit in Washington (November 2008) to address the crisis. Canada hosted the G20 in Toronto in 2010.

The leaders’ summit is the culmination of a year-long process of meetings that in addition to the central bankers, finance ministers and sherpas, includes sessions involving labour, business, think tanks, youth, girls (Belinda Stronach was a driving force behind the Girls20 summit) and civil society.

The member countries include the G7 nations: Canada, the United States, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the European Union, as well as Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Korea, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and South Africa. With two-thirds of the world’s population, their economies account for approximately 80 per cent of world trade and global production.

The heads of the IMF and World Bank participate, as do the heads of the European Union and European Commission and the head of the European Central Bank. Other national leaders are invited to discuss specific topics such as development.

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The G20’s Standing Agenda

The G20 has developed a de facto standing agenda.

First, the multilateral trading system. Expect words from leaders but there is no sense the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Doha round will soon be concluded. Today, movement on multilateral trade rests with efforts to resuscitate the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and a series of smaller regional groupings, including the pending Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and a possible Japan-EU free trade agreement.

Second, resistance to protectionism. Global Trade Alert reports that, notwithstanding the G20 pledge for standstill at the London 2010 summit, since 2008 governments have taken 7,815 protectionist measures ranging from local content requirements to discriminatory regulatory practices.

The G20 nations account for 65 per cent of protectionist measures but the good news is that there has been a sharp decline in such measures in 2016-17. WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo urged G20 nations to “continue improving the global trading environment, including by implementing the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, which entered into force in February this year.”

Third, promoting international investment. Barriers to investment continue to plague G20 economies. Governments need to further open their economies.

Fourth, achieving sustainable fiscal policy. This means saving in good times so you can spend in recession and then get back to balance as quickly as possible.

Fifth, supporting sustainable development. With the conclusion of the Millennium Development plan in 2016, nations are now committed to 17 goals in the new UN Sustainable Development Agenda to be achieved by 2030, including no poverty, gender equality, good health and well-being, clean water and sanitation, reduced inequalities, decent work and economic growth.

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What does the Hamburg summit want to achieve?

Merkel has set out her priorities. Leaders must address three questions:

  • How can we co-operate better in the future for the sake of our citizens?
  • What fears and challenges are associated with globalization, and what can we do to address these?
  • How can we safeguard inclusiveness and ensure that the fruits of prosperity and growth are distributed fairly?

In addition to the economic challenges, Merkel calls for a broad-based civil society dialogue on digitalization, effective climate protection policy and global health crisis management.

Build resilience, improve sustainability, assume responsibility – the leaders are expected to act on these three aims to:

  • Strengthen economic resilience
  • Strengthen the international financial architecture
  • Further develop financial markets
  • Make taxation fair and reliable internationally
  • Deepen co-operation on trade and investment
  • Protect the climate and advancing sustainable energy supply
  • Implement the 2030 agenda
  • Seize opportunities of digital technology
  • Promote health
  • Empower women
  • Address displacement and migration
  • Intensify partnership with Africa
  • Combat terrorist financing and money laundering
  • Fight corruption
  • Improve food security

These items are all likely to be reflected in the communique, no matter how wishy-washy the language.

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What about deliverables from Hamburg?

Don’t expect a lot.

Perhaps the most we can expect is agreement to address inequalities, at home and abroad, in the face of the continuing domestic populist movements.

Merkel, with support from new French President Emmanuel Macron, wants further climate action. The German environment department has published a fact check on Trump’s climate statements. Trump is not likely to support further action and, by tradition, G20 decisions are made by consensus.

Trump promises to be the wild card at the summit, having already clashed with his fellow leaders at the NATO and G7 summits earlier this year over defence spending, trade, climate and refugee policy. Unhappy with foreign steel and aluminum imports, Trump is now considering raising tariffs on all imported steel to the alarm of Europe and Canada.

Most of the action will be at the bilateral level. It will be the first meeting between Trump and President Vladimir Putin and it is reported that Trump wants a set of deliverables to offer to the Russian president. Chinese President Xi Jinping is visiting Russia and Germany prior to the visit to discuss the new Silk Road and Belt – land and sea trade route – initiative from China through South Asia, Central Asia and then Europe. EU and Japan trade negotiators are working to conclude free trade negotiations in time for the summit. The German decision to block a rally of Turkish citizens working in Germany with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will make for an interesting discussion with Merkel. Putin may also be called out over Russian interference in the U.S. and European elections.

As is always the case at these summits, security will be paramount with an estimated 20,000 police with dogs, horses and helicopters and 7.8 kilometres of steel barriers to prevent disturbances but also to contain the perennial protesters.

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Image credits: Getty Images/Morris MacMatzen

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Canadian Objectives

This is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s third G20 summit. A contender for Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) “hottie” with Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto at his first summit (2015), Trudeau is now seen as an experienced leader (third in G7 seniority), a constructive internationalist and someone who is managing well his relationship with Trump.

According to the PMO and Global Affairs releases on the G-20, Mr. Trudeau will “promote inclusive economic growth, progressive international trade, gender equality, action on climate change”, and reiterate Canada’s commitment to working with partners to develop a co-ordinated global response to terrorism while safeguarding human rights.

Trudeau wants to move on CETA. It is delayed from its originally anticipated July 1 provisional implementation because of interpretive disputes around the allocation of Canadian cheese imports and brand-name drugs.

There will be discussions on the TPP with Asian and Latin American partners, and the approaching renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Trump and Peña Nieto.

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Do we really need a G20?

Yes. At a time when globalization, the maintenance of a liberal international order and multilateral co-operation are under question, the G20 is an important forum to discuss, and hopefully advance, common global interests.

The G-20 filled a gap in the architecture of top table meeting places at the UN and G7.

The permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – Russia, China, France, Britain and the U.S. – represent the world of 1945 and the early Cold War. As we witness with Syria and other crises, getting the Security Council to act constructively is very difficult. Reforming it is an exercise in futility.

The G7 group of leaders – the U.S., France, Britain, Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada – was created in 1975-76 following the economic crisis that OPEC induced. It is Eurocentric. It doesn’t include China, India or Brazil. Russia joined in 1998 but it was suspended in 2014 after its invasion of Crimea.

The G-20 complements, at the leadership level, the work of the other major financial and economic institutions: the ‘Bretton Woods twins’ – the IMF and World Bank – and the World Trade Organization.

So, the G20 made sense. Like the G7, much of the value of the G20 is in its process.

More people will work on the draft of the final communiqué than will read it but the process of getting there is what really matters. The ongoing meetings between central bankers and finance ministers (the original G20) now include other ministerial meetings as well as regular discussions with business, civil society and think tanks.

What is important about these summits is not the prepared statements delivered at the main table, but the frank discussions and informal meetings that take place in the corridors and meeting rooms around the main conference. Winston Churchill, who popularized the word “summitry”, observed that “jaw-jaw” between leaders is better than “war-war”.

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Further Reading

The best Canadian source for G20 documentation, with a chronology of past summits, is the University of Toronto’s G20 Information Centre, managed by John Kirton.

The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) in Waterloo does excellent research work on G2O issues, and especially noteworthy are recent reports on refugees, climate change and trade.

The official German site has useful information as does Global Affairs Canada.

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Trudeau speaking to U.S. Governors

Seeking U.S. ties apart from Trump, Trudeau will be first PM to address governors’ meeting

The prime minister’s address, which will focus on trade a month before crucial NAFTA talks are likely to begin, is part of his effort to build relationships with U.S. leaders outside of the Trump administration.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, seen here at the G20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany on Friday, will be the first Canadian Prime Minister to speak at the U.S. governors' conference in Rhode Island next week.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, seen here at the G20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany on Friday, will be the first Canadian Prime Minister to speak at the U.S. governors’ conference in Rhode Island next week.  (Matt Cardy / GETTY IMAGES
By

WASHINGTON—Seeking influence with U.S. leaders who are not President Donald Trump, Justin Trudeau will be the first Canadian prime minister to deliver a speech to a major conference of American state governors.

Trudeau will give the keynote address at the National Governors Association meeting in Providence, Rhode Island next Friday, just over a month before the expected opening of North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiation talks.

Read the latest news on U.S. President Donald Trump

Trudeau’s address will focus on trade, his government said in a news release, and he “will also emphasize the importance of the Canada-U.S. partnership in cross-border security and the potential for common solutions on climate change.”

The address is part of Trudeau’s effort to build relationships with U.S. officials at the state and local levels. On the whole, state governors are far more pro-NAFTA than Trump, who calls the deal a “catastrophe.”

But the appearance will also give Trudeau another chance to make his trade case to Trump’s administration, with which his aides have been in frequent contact on trade. Vice-President Mike Pence is thought to be planning to attend, and economic officials may also be present.

Trudeau’s government described the attempt to build ties with governors as a complement to, rather than a replacement for, its healthy ties with the president’s team.

“Our government has worked hard to establish a constructive working relationship with all orders of the U.S. government, especially with the administration, and the president and his team directly,” said Trudeau press secretary Cameron Ahmad. He added: “The prime minister’s attendance at the National Governors Association summer meeting next week is part of that effort, and only builds upon our direct engagement with the administration.”Trump has alternated between praising the trade relationship and portraying Canada as an economic predator taking advantage of Americans. In his weekly radio address, released Friday, he said he is pursuing a “total renegotiation of NAFTA.”

“And if we don’t get it, we will terminate — that is, end NAFTA forever,” he said.

Association spokesperson Elena Waskey said Trudeau was invited to speak by the chair of the National Governors Association, Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, and the vice-chair, Republican Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, because of “the meeting’s strong international focus.”

Thirty-three of the nation’s 50 governors are Republicans.

Former diplomat Colin Robertson called Trudeau’s appearance a “smart tactic” that can only help Canada in NAFTA talks. Canada is the top export market for most of the states Trump won, he noted, and governors are “very conscious about trade and jobs generated by trade.”

“We are seeing governors talking about the importance of Canada-U.S. trade to their states,” Robertson said.

While Canadian federal governments have long pursued ties with U.S. state governments, Trudeau, confronted with a president skeptical of multilateral pacts and the international order more generally, has made sub-presidential connections a greater priority than his predecessors.

Canadian premiers and federal legislators regularly attend National Governors Association meetings, and Trudeau’s government has sent representatives. But no Canadian prime minister has spoken there since its founding in 1908, according to U.S. State Department records.

“Not in modern times have we had a sitting Canadian Prime Minister deliver a keynote address at either our winter or summer meeting,” Waskey said.

Trudeau signalled his intention to work with states on climate change in his June statement responding to Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accord.

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Softwood Lumber and NAFTA Hearings

There’s no summer vacation for Canada on the trade file

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House Committee International Trade: The relationship with Mexico

Standing Committee on International Trade


NUMBER 069 
l
1st SESSION 
l
42nd PARLIAMENT 

EVIDENCE

Thursday, May 18, 2017

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

 

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

    My remarks will cover the upcoming trade negotiations, the Canada-Mexico relationship, and the need for middle powers like Canada and Mexico to stand up in support of the rules-based, liberal international system.

    With regard to the North American accord, we need a new North American accord. NAFTA worked to the benefit of all three parties—Canada, U.S.A., and Mexico—but it is time to bring the NAFTA negotiated before the digital age and the arrival of e-commerce into the 21st century.

    The trans-Pacific partnership would have largely accomplished this, but the Trump administration has withdrawn from this Obama administration initiative, so we need to adjust to the current circumstances. A new agreement would include and set the standards in emerging areas like e-commerce and the growing digital trade. We can also make improvements to integrate into the agreement standards on labour and the environment.

    We need to address labour mobility, including the mutual recognition of accreditation. Then we can make maximum use of the talent pool that North America enjoys, but that we need to harness, to make us the most competitive region in the world. This means provision for trade adjustment so that those who are displaced by trade decisions or by efficiency improvements in automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence are guaranteed the opportunity to improve their skills or have training in another area. In doing so, we have the opportunity to create, just as NAFTA did in its time, the new model for trade agreements: a realistic but progressive trade agreement that gives a helping hand to those who are displaced or who lose out.

    A trilateral trade negotiation leading to a new North American economic accord would respect the sovereignties of the three nations. It would be a very different model from that of the European Union with its centralized and heavy bureaucratic oversight. Rather, we would continue with the current approach of ad hoc working groups to ensure and evergreen the agreement to allow for continuous improvement in areas like transportation.

    In the coming weeks, we’ll hear a lot of noise and nonsense about Canada and Mexico out of Washington. We need to distinguish between what is real and what is theatre. To paraphrase the great Gretzky, we need to go “where the puck is going”, and keep our eyes on the net and on the goals that we want and can score.

    With regard to Canada-Mexico, NAFTA transformed the Canada-Mexico relationship from one of cordial distance based on a shared neighbour into that of family. Today, there is an annual, increasing flow of two million Canadians to Mexico, especially during the winter months. Canadian investment, mining, manufacturing, and banking have increased manyfold, while trade has more than tripled—even faster than with our traditional partners in Europe and Japan. Today, Mexico is our third-largest trading partner, but it’s not reciprocal. Mexican investment in Canada never took. There is one notable exception: Grupo Bimbo’s acquisition of Canada Bread in 2014. It now operates 17 bakeries and employs over 4,000 across Canada.

    The imposition of the visa in 2009 affected more than half of Mexican travel to Canada, effectively chilling tourism, study, and investment. The lifting of the visa this past December and its replacement with the electronic travel authorization has resulted in a significant increase in Mexican travel to Canada. We are already reaping rewards and more tourists, but we should be doing more in terms of tourism promotion. We expect more students, especially given President Trump’s comments about building a wall on the Mexican border. We should encourage recruitment visits here by middle and high schools, university and vocational schools, and provincial education ministers.

    Beyond students, we could do a lot more in joint research projects in manufacturing and agri-food. In the longer term, ease of entry into Canada would also generate more investment, but we need to target Mexican investment that matches Canada. Most promising are the automotive and automotive parts sector and the energy and energy services sector.

    Goldman Sachs estimates that by 2050, Mexico will overtake China in terms of per capita GDP. There is already a middle class of 40 million in Mexico. Mexico is our springboard into the potential of the Americas. We already have preferred observer status in the Pacific Alliance that includes Mexico, Peru, Colombia, and Chile. In the short-term, before the end of the year, Prime Minister Trudeau should lead a “Team Canada” mission with premiers, business leaders, and university presidents to Mexico to deepen Canada-Mexico relations and to underline our solidarity with Mexico in negotiating a new North American accord.

    The picture of solidarity, Mr. Trudeau with President Peña Nieto in Mexico City, would be appreciated in Mexico. Its significance would also be recognized in the United States, and it would give encouragement to our many allies in the Congress, the states, the business community, and even within the Trump administration.

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    A vigorous partnership with Mexico is already working to our mutual benefit, but we still have to realize the full potential of the Canada-Mexico relationship.

    In terms of worry about middle powers, we live in a world of disarray. The rules-based, liberal international system and supporting architecture that Canadians helped engineer in the period after the Second World War has kept the peace and created the conditions for extraordinary growth and prosperity. Today, it is under strain and in need of reform and rejuvenation, and the middle powers need to step up. China and Russia would like to see a return to spheres of influence and a concert of great powers. This would not serve Canadian or Mexican interests.

    The United States, which guaranteed this system and built it on its military might, wants more burden-sharing by like-minded states. This we must do, because the hard truth is that the U.S. carries and sustains the system under which Canadians and Mexicans have thrived. We need to stand up with like-minded middle powers such as Mexico and reaffirm our support and commitment to the rules-based, liberal international system. A new, progressive approach to sustainable trade and labour mobility in partnership with Mexico and other democratic middle powers is the place to begin the necessary reform and rejuvenation.

    Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

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South Korea and Canada

South Korea is a natural fit for closer trade ties with Canada

In his congratulatory message to newly elected South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged to “deepen relations between our two countries.” It’s the customary diplomatic bromide for these occasions, but with South Korea, it should mean more.

Our only free-trade agreement (FTA) in Asia is with South Korea. Negotiated after nearly a decade of discussions, it gives Canada preferential treatment into a market of 50 million consumers. It has opened up new opportunities, especially for beef and lobster sales, but we should be making more out of it. With few natural resources, beyond the resourcefulness of its people, and the gateways of Incheon and Busan, the South Korean economic miracle is based on innovation, adaptation and entrepreneurial spirit. These are all qualities successive Canadian governments are keen to encourage and develop at home.

Mr. Moon plans to visit Washington in the coming weeks. Mr. Trudeau should invite Mr. Moon to include a Canadian stopover to plan the “how and what” of deepening relations. A renegotiation of the North American free-trade agreement may be at the top of U.S. President Donald Trump’s trade agenda, but he also wants to renegotiate the “horrible”Korea-U.S. free-trade agreement (KORUS). Mr. Moon would almost certainly welcome any advice from our Prime Minister on the management of Mr. Trump.

The FTA provides a framework and platform, but the meat of these deals comes from deepening our business-to-business ties. The South Koreans are keen to develop partnerships in sectors including medical devices, smart cars and e-commerce as well as in the practical application of artificial intelligence and robotics, all areas in which Canada has interest and growing competence.

The private sector will be key. South Korea’s International Trade Association (KITA) with its 71,000 members, mostly small and medium-sized enterprises, is a natural starting point for Canadian business. KITA has 10 overseas offices. One of our goals should be to have KITA open a Canadian office.

But it’s the North Korean situation that is first on Mr. Moon’s to-do list and the main purpose of planned trips to Washington, Beijing and Tokyo. The North Koreans have played the international community for 20-plus years, promising concessions, all the while building their nuclear arsenal and ballistic-missile capacity. The United States has declared an end to its “strategic patience.” All options are now on the table.

To further complicate things for the South Koreans, Mr. Trump says he wants Seoul to pay for the billion-dollar terminal high altitude area defence system (THAAD), while China regards THAAD as provocative. Diplomacy is needed now more than ever.

Canada has a real interest in containing the North Korean nuclear threat. North Korean missiles aimed at the United States, given their faulty trajectory, could easily land in Canada. It’s a strong argument for Canada to sign onto ballistic missile defence in the forthcoming Defence Program Review.

Canada has frozen relations with North Korea and increased sanctions for their nuclear arms perfidy. But would a Canadian presence in Pyongyang give the international community another set of eyes, ears and voice? Canada has place and standing in Korea.

A Canadian missionary created the first Korean-English dictionary. A Canadian doctor to one of Korea’s last monarchs, founded what is now Yonsei University. During the Korean War (1950-53), Canada fielded the third-largest contingent in the UN Forces. The Gapyeong Canada Memorial commemorates the more than 500 Canadians who gave their lives. Canadians still serve with the United Nations Command overseeing the armistice with North Korea.

The people-to-people ties continue to grow. Last year, the Korean Government opened a Korean Cultural Center in Ottawa with its activities including a lively K-Pop gala. At well over 200,000, the Korean-Canadian diaspora is the fourth largest outside of South Korea, with most living in Toronto and Vancouver. There are 25,000 Canadians in South Korea, many teaching English as a second language.

Chasing the big, shiny markets in Asia – China, India and Japan – is understandable, but they also have their challenges. Like the four-leafed clover in the Tin Pan Alley jingle, South Korea has been overlooked. With the Moon Jae-in administration in place, it is time to give South Korea another look.

Colin Robertson is a former Canadian diplomat, and is vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. He recently participated in a Korea Foundation-sponsored program in South Korea

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The Order of the Aztec Eagle

THE SENATE

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Senate met at 1:30 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.

Prayers.

SENATORS’ STATEMENTS

 

Colin Robertson

Congratulations on Appointment to Order of the Aztec Eagle

Hon. Patricia Bovey: Honourable senators, it is always praise for Canada when a Canadian is awarded an international tribute.

At a special ceremony last week, His Excellency Agustin García-López, Mexican Ambassador to Canada, presented Colin Robertson with the Order of the Aztec Eagle, the highest honour the Government of Mexico can bestow on a foreigner. Maureen Boyd, Colin’s wife was also honoured.

My pride in witnessing this presentation was huge. My heartiest congratulations and thanks go to Colin and Maureen for their commitment and ongoing international work for Canada. This honour is especially timely, marking a particularly positive commitment between partners when the future of NAFTA is in question and the need to retain relationships so important.

Colin Robertson has long been heralded for his knowledge and insights into Canada’s place in the world. Personally, watching Colin’s career evolve over the years has been a treat. My husband gave him his first job in the Manitoba Archives when Colin was a University of Manitoba undergraduate. He worked with the then recent transfer of the Hudson’s Bay Archives from London, and joined us for many dinners and TV specials.

A Canadian diplomat for 30 years, Colin is now Vice President and Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; an Executive Fellow at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy; and Distinguished Senior Fellow at Carleton’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs. He sits on many advisory councils, including the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, the Conference of Defence Associations Institute, and the North American Research Partnership. An Honorary Captain of the Royal Canadian Navy, assigned to the Strategic Communications Directorate, he is also on the Deputy Minister of International Trade’s NAFTA Advisory Council. You will have read his regular columns on foreign affairs in The Globe and Mail.

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His understanding of the importance of cultural diplomacy is deep, unwavering in support for arts and culture as a critical tool for Canada’s goals and profile abroad. That was evident when he was Cultural Attaché in New York, in the Canadian mission in Hong Kong, at the UN, Consul General in Los Angeles, and the first Head of the Advocacy and Legislative Secretariat at the Canadian Embassy in Washington.

He has supported many international cultural exchanges involving Canadian creators, musicians, dancers, writers, exhibitions and performing arts groups. Canada-Mexico artistic relationships are long-standing. Mexico’s Frida Kahlo and our own Emily Carr have been featured in major international exhibitions. The Royal Winnipeg Ballet recently performed in Mexico and Canada’s National Gallery has a number of exhibitions in the final planning stages.

[Translation]

Honourable colleagues, I very much want to thank to our friend, Colin Robertson, this visionary diplomat who contributed so much to Canada, and congratulate him on this honourable distinction that he was awarded.

[English]

Colin Robertson, a consummate diplomat, is a champion for Canada of whom we should all be proud. He is a silent hero who has worked tirelessly over many decades to advance the interests of Canadians while respecting those of our international partners.

Garcia Lopez me hug

Former Mexican Ambassador Agustin Garcia Lopez Loaeza embraces former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson after presenting him with the Order of the Aztec Eagle award at the official Mexican residence in Ottawa on May 4. The Hill Times photograph by Sam Garcia

me Thai ambassador

Mr. Robertson, left, speaks with Thai Ambassador Vijavat Isarabhakdi, right. The Hill Times photograph by Sam Garcia

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Arctic Council

Canada-Russia-U.S. tensions could overshadow Arctic Council meeting

Foreign ministers gather for daylong summit on environmental issues, but broader talks likely By Katie Simpson, CBC News Posted: May 10, 2017 7:12 PM

Canada’s foreign minister is joining her Russian and U.S. counterparts Thursday for an intimate gathering to discuss environmental concerns in the north.

Related Stories

But the conversations on the sidelines of the Arctic Council meeting will likely be of great interest, given the growing political tensions between the three largest participants.

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are among the eight political representatives attending the meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska.

The sit-down comes at a time of growing international instability.

A government source with direct knowledge of the summit said Canada is keen to stick to the issues on the agenda, but acknowledged there will likely be opportunities for “real conversations” in private on other topics.

Tensions in the room

The ongoing investigation of Russian involvement in the U.S. election could easily become a source of friction in Alaska, but there are also concerns involving Canada that could emerge.

Ottawa’s relationship with Moscow certainly hasn’t grown cozier in the wake of Freeland’s appointment as foreign minister.

Arctic Report Card

A fisherman drives a boat near the Arctic Circle in Ilulissat, Greenland. Northern issues are on the agenda at Thursday’s Arctic Council meeting, but other topics may be discussed on the sidelines. (Evan Vucci/Pool/Associated Press)

In March, she was targeted in a smear campaign appearing on pro-Russian websites that link her grandfather to Nazi Germany. When asked about the articles, Freeland warned Canada should be prepared for Russian attempts to destabilize its democracy.

Before she even took on the role, she was already subject to Russian sanctions, which ban her from travelling to the country. In 2014, Russia announced a series of retaliatory measures against Canadian officials after Canada levelled sanctions against Russia for its actions in Crimea.

Freeland and Lavrov have crossed paths before, but never in such close quarters.

Anti-trade rhetoric

Meanwhile, the Canada-U.S. relationship has changed dramatically. Since Donald Trump took office, Ottawa launched an intensive charm offensive to ensure key aspects of the Canada-U.S. relationship, like trade, continue to thrive.

Despite those efforts, Canada has been on the receiving end of Trump’s anti-trade rhetoric.

One former Canadian diplomat is urging Freeland to hold frank discussions in private with her counterparts, to speak to some of these growing issues. 

“Often the most important part of these are not what’s discussed in a public roundtable … it’s what takes place in the corridor, that’s what counts,” said Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat.

Softwood and hacking

Robertson expects Freeland to seek out a private discussion with Tillerson, to address the ongoing softwood lumber dispute. Canada is threatening multiple trade actions against the U.S. in response to new duties imposed on Canadian softwood. 

“I think she’ll ask for a readout on where things are at,” Robertson said, adding Tillerson will likely want the same. 

Russian hacking is another issue Robertson thinks should be raised if Freeland is able to secure a private discussion with Lavrov.

Cabinet Retreat 20170123

Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland is representing Canada at the Arctic Council meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska, Thursday. (Todd Korol/Canadian Press)

“We’ve got an election in Britain coming up, an election in Germany, where certainly all the signals are the Russians are playing their games again,” Robertson said. “So I think it is appropriate for Canada to raise this concern, and it’s appropriate to do it foreign minister to foreign minister.”

Arctic agenda

Freeland’s office said Canada will push several key issues at the meeting, including “advancing the rights of Indigenous Peoples,” especially when it comes to addressing mental wellness, education and climate change.

According to a statement, Freeland will also look for a path to building a sustainable Arctic economy, and ways to encourage and preserve “science-based decision making.”

Whatever political tensions emerge at the summit, the government official said Canada is more than willing to co-operate with all Arctic nations on issues of mutual interest.

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Lumber Tit for Tat

Canada Retaliates Against Lumber Tariffs By Threatening U.S. With Trade Penalties

Posted: Updated: WASHINGTON — The Canadian government is threatening multiple trade actions against the United States in retaliation for duties on softwood lumber, warning that several American industries could be targeted in the event of a protracted trade dispute.

A first salvo came from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who in a letter Friday informed B.C. Premier Christy Clark that he’s seriously considering her request for a ban on exports of U.S. thermal coal and that federal trade officials are examining it.

A broader threat is also in the works, said two government sources. It involves possible duties against different industries in Oregon, which is the home state of a Democratic senator who has been a hardliner on the lumber dispute.

justin trudeau
Justin Trudeau listens during an interview at the Bloomberg Businessweek Debrief in Toronto on April 20.
(Photo: Cole Burston/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

That state’s plywood, flooring, wood chips, packaging material and wine are among the potential targets as the Canadian government has launched a search for evidence of illegal subsidies to businesses in that state.

The sources insisted these threats are not indicative of any escalating hostility to President Donald Trump and are simply a one-off measure — specific to one dispute over softwood lumber, and one state, and one Democratic senator.

There’s an easy solution: a long-term softwood-lumber deal would put the issue to rest, one source said.

“We hope we don’t have to act,” said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to discuss matters not yet made public.

“We hope this dispute can be resolved.”

canada softwood lumber
A worker walks past stacks of lumber at the Partap Forest Products mill in Maple Ridge, B.C. on Tuesday. (Photo: Darryl Dyck/CP)

The course of action being reviewed by the Canadian government is similar to the process used in the U.S. that slapped a 20-per-cent duty on northern lumber. It involves a request to the Canada Border Services Agency to study illegal subsidies in Oregon, a process that would take several months.

The government says it has identified nine programs in Oregon that assist businesses, primarily in lumber.

They include: the Oregon Underproductive Forestland Tax Credit, the Oregon Forest Resource Trust, the Oregon Tree Farm Program, the Pacific Forest Trust, property tax exemptions for standing timber, a small winery tax exemption program and other tax credits.

“It’s a real thing. Our officials have already been looking at this,” said one government official familiar with the plan. ”Wyden has been a chief proponent for years of the baseless and unfounded claims against the Canadian softwood lumber industry.”

Escalating trade hostilities

These threats arrive in a climate of escalating trade hostilities.

Trump’s recent digs at Canada — coupled with his embrace of ‘America First’ trade nationalism, his full-throated support of what was a widely expected duty on lumber, and his complaints about Canadian dairy — have drawn reactions north of the border.

The strongest reactions have come from provincial governments.

Ontario is reportedly examining targets for retaliation in the event of any new Buy American provisions. And B.C.’s premier has turned a threat of retaliation into the centrepiece of her current election campaign.

christy clark
B.C. Liberal Leader Christy Clark speaks to constituents in B.C. (Photo: Darryl Dyck/CP)

But a former diplomat urged caution.

Clark’s threat to ban or tax U.S. thermal coal would be against Canada’s own interests, said Colin Robertson, a former member of Canada’s NAFTA negotiating team, now vice-president at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

“You don’t want to stop the Americans using our ports,” Robertson said in an interview.

“I’d be surprised at having invested so much over the last decade — by the Martin government, the Harper government and the Trudeau government, at least in the early stages — that you would want to take actions that would make it more difficult for the Americans to use our ports.”

Ports in Seattle and Portland would be quite happy to snap up that business at the expense of Canadian jobs, Robertson added.

One federal official said there’s no need to let things escalate.

He said Canada’s government intends to maintain its general posture toward Trump, of low drama and active co-operation: ”This is not about the president. This is about the state… The strategy (with Trump) is still one of positive engagement…

”(That being said), we still have to respond to these issues as they come.”

— With files from Mia Rabson in Ottawa

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